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© Rakhesh Sasidharan

Elsewhere

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Watching “Titans” on Netflix. It’s a bit of a drag but every time I think I will stop after this episode they introduce some nugget or the other (like the two Robins in episode 5) and keeps me hooked. It’s no “Daredevil” by any means more like a slightly better version of “Iron Fist”. And it seems so unnecessarily dark, like the writers decided to make it so because that’s just the current trend.

I like the title card – how they change the pictures in the letters to match the themes of the episode. Nice touch.

A good quote from episode 6, by Machiavelli.

If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared. Severities should be dealt out all at once, so that their suddenness may give less offense; benefits ought to be handed ought drop by drop, so that they may be relished the more.

Badhaai Ho!

2019! Yay. 

Saw “Badhaai Ho” yesterday. Nice to see touching performances from yesteryear actors like Neena Gupta and Surekha Sikri. It’s a good story too, predictable as one would expect, but well taken with not too much drama except what you’d expect and sign up for when deciding to watch such a movie. :) 

Unforgettable moment from the movie: hospital scene when a random stranger turns to Ayushman and asks “Malayali aano?”. Got to be a mallu to get that joke, it was hilarious and totally unexpected!

Watched “Teeefa in Trouble” after that. Eugh, not that great. I am a fan of Ali Zafar and was hoping for more. It’s not a bad movie … just not great! Maya Ali is fun to watch. Predictable plot again, but well taken and so can watch. 

I seem to like one or two good movies; then encounter a dud. Again watch one or two good movies; encounter a dud. One needs a dud now and then to keep things grounded I guess. 

Tumbbad is awesome!

I saw “Tumbbad” recently. Wasn’t aware of this movie until I came across some article on interesting Bollywood movies of 2018 and it mentioned “Andhadhun”, “Tumbbad”, “Stree”, and others. 

I had seen “Andhadhun” last week (forgot to blog about it, damn!) so I gave “Tumbbad” a shot. It’s a horror movie, and very well taken at that. It’s not horror based on special effects or just trying to be creepy by sudden appearances etc. There’s a story and they have taken it well. It’s a simple story and one that says with you for a while. Definitely watch this movie if you haven’t yet! 

Might as well talk about “Andhadhun” here. This is a Sriram Raghavan movie (nothing more needs to be said; except for “Agent Vinod” and “Badlapur” (which wasn’t as gory as I hoped it would be) I have been a huge fan of all his movies (“Johnny Gaddar” being my favorite, and now “Andhadhun”). Starring Ayushman Khurrana as a blind pianist who happens to witness a murder, this is every bit a Sriram Raghavan movie as his other best work. To top things you have some amazing music by Amit Trivedi both in terms of songs and background music (the piano plays a huge role in this movie). Watch this if you are a fan of Sriram Raghavan movies or like stuff like “Fargo” – you won’t regret it!

I also saw “Stree”, which was fine. It’s a fun horror flick which is neither too much fun nor too much horror. Would have been better if it was more horror than fun, but well … can’t do much now. This was the weakest of the three movies.  Except for one bit where they make fun of the ghost regarding its IQ and obedience etc., there is nothing too memorable about this movie. 

Poirot, unpacked

Jeez I had high hopes for “The ABC Murders”. It was one of my favorite Poirot stories and well John Malkovich is playing Poirot so it must be exciting right?

Nope!

All of Poirot’s backstories and mannerisms and character are removed. This is a Poirot TV show the way “Elementary” is a Sherlock Holmes TV show. You don’t really want to see it!

This Poirot has a goatee! *horror* No mustache, can you believe that! He starts off coloring his mustaches black, which I think the “real” Poirot too used to do… but this one has the colors dripping off his face. He is sad, a lost cause. Cops hate him, he has no purpose. There’s a lot of flashbacks to some mysterious and sad past… which turns out be even more disappointing as guess what this Poirot wasn’t even a celebrated Belgian cop! Jeez.

The murders and plot are faithful to the book but it’s not much fun to watch. Everything’s so sad and gloomy. Poirot doesn’t even use his “little gray cells” anywhere. The ABC killer is kind of given to him in his lap. And there’s no explanation given behind how he found the actual murdered either. Eugh!

Of course, watch it coz anyone would be curious to see it considering it’s Poirot. But don’t expect much. Maybe go listen to a Poirot audiobook to cleanse yourself after this! (After watching an episode of “Elementary” I went back and re-watched an episode of “Sherlock” just to forget “Elementary”).

I liked something Poirot says in the end. We have a tendency to characterize the current age as dark or more evil that the olden times. That’s not really true. There was a lot of cruelty in the past too. In fact I was reading a book “1000 years of annoying the French” and also recently I visited Tbilisi, Georgia and was reading about their history… there was a lot more war and violence in the past. There is a lot of it now too but saying that the present is worse than the past is just romanticizing the past. There’s always been evil in the world – it’s Humans. We are just bad and wicked. (And this is me channeling a lot of “Westworld” too into everything else! :)).

Speaking of TV shows checkout “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch” if you get a a chance. Good stuff! Or if you want murder mysteries set in cold and lonely country check out “Shetland”. Excellent stuff!

Westworld

I re-binge-watched Westworld Season 1 last week, so I could start watching Season 2, and binge-watched Season 2 the past few days. Amazing stuff as expected! Like chocolate cream for the mind. 

I was already blown away by Season 1 when I watched it two years ago so re-watching it wasn’t a surprise, but I didn’t have too high hopes for Season 2 as many shows have a good first season and then mess it up in the second or third seasons. Season 2 of Westworld seemed to start off that way with too many action sequences and fighting but it all made sense as one went along and things started to get very interesting from around Episode 3 (the one with The Raj). The only sort of boring episode for me was Episode 8, which was about the Indians and their visions, but it too was a good episode and I have no complaints or anything. 

It’s amazing how Westworld touches a lot of topics like visions, heaven/ hell, fate, God, AI, humans vs. robots, slavery, afterlife, computers … a whole bunch of topics that seem unrelated on the surface of it but which you can connect like the writers of Westworld did. I liked the Episode 8 with Indians for this – how they explained their visions and goals, which are different to everyone else, in the context of Westworld. 

Every episode somehow managed to be more human by going more into the backstory of the characters and yet also very Westworld-y with all the topics the show handles. I didn’t expect the “twist” in the last episode. I was expecting something, and I was expecting Bernard to be in the centre of it, but boy they took things to a different level! I never had so much fun with an unreliable narrator, or generally being confused but knowing there’s a reason behind it all! (And that’s another good thing about Westworld. Unlike other shows of a similar nature, they don’t leave anything hanging. You know that by the last episode things will make sense … there’s nothing left unanswered). 

Over all, a great show. Think Matrix (the first movie) and the way you mind opened up when you watched it. That’s Westworld, over two seasons. You get a similar mind opening at the end of each season with some bits and pieces sprinkled across the episodes. Season 2 especially, I get the feeling the writers had a lot of fun with the characters, the music, the camera world (the whole Shogun World piece is so darn creative!). Season 2 is lighter on content than Season 1 so they had to stretch things a bit I think, but it was fun the way they did it and I enjoyed it a whole lot. :)

Vocal Harmonizing

A few days ago I was listening to “Agar Tum Saath Ho” from the excellent movie “Tamashaa” and noticed for the first time (yeah after nearly 2-3 years of regularly listening to that song coz it is one of my favorites!) that Arijith has someone else singing along with him in the background. I had previously seen A.R. Rahman employ this in other favorites of mine like “Piya Haji Ali” (from the otherwise unremarkable “Fiza”) and also “Noon-Un-Ala-Noor” (from the artsy-but-worth-a-watch “Meenaxi”). But in both these cases I knew you the background singer was – it was obvious from the artists section of the song. But with “Agar Tum Saath Ho” I never noticed this other singer until a few days ago when I kind of slept in my bus ride home listening to this song on loop, and I think my mind just relaxed and stopped thinking other stuff … it just soaked in the song, was in the moment so to say, and I heard the other singer as obvious as anything else.

Turns out this other singer was Arijith himself, but in a different pitch (thanks Quora) and this technique is called vocal harmonizing. Nice, I didn’t know of this.

While typing this post I was post I was listening to “Aanandhame” from the movie “Aravindante Athithikal” (which I previously mentioned, I love its songs) and noticed that it too employs something similar. While Anne Amie is the primary voice, you can also hear Vineeth Sreenivasan lightly in the background singing along with her. Adds a lot of the feel of the song.

Speaking of “Aravindante Athithikal”, a lovely first half a very draggy second half. Wish the movie had just stuck on with the theme of first half or concluded there if it had nothing more to say. The second half would even have been fine if it didn’t drag so much towards the end about finding the mother!

The music of “Aravindante Athidhikal”

Once in a while you come across an album where pretty much every song is amazing. “Aravindante Athidhikal” is one such. The first time I heard it I wasn’t impressed. But the next day I found myself humming some of the tunes and went back and listened to the songs again … and been listening to them again and again since then! :) It’s like falling in love with A.R. Rahman songs in the past. I’d never like them on the first listen, but would find myself humming the tune later and go back and listen and love it. (Doesn’t happen that way with A.R. Rahman songs nowadays).

The music is by Shaan Rahman. He is a dependable music director. Always delivers. Most of his soundtracks have at least one or two tracks that are amazing.

Special mention: “Kanne Thaai Malare” by Vineeth Sreenivasan. It’s just him accompanied by Shaan Rahman on keyboard. You won’t forget this song/ tune once you hear it! :)

“Blackmail” (Hindi movie) – dark comedy, but …

“Blackmail”, starring Irrfan Khan an directed by Abhinay Deo, tries to be a dark comedy. Something like “Fargo” or most Coen brothers movies. But while the latter movies are coherent in terms of the tone or branding, I found “Blackmail” to be confusing.

At times it does the dark comedy well. But also feels like its trying to be cool and shocking and many other things as well. It’s difficult to put into words what I am trying to say here except that I found the message confusing. The movie started off trying to go with a shock/ comedy factor by showing our hero take photos of his colleague’s wives from their office desks to the bathroom so he can masturbate to them. Then it moved on to his unhappy marriage, and him trying to nice to her one day out of the blue by coming home early and discovering she has an affair. At this point it tries to be something else with the loud background music etc. Then it becomes dark with him trying to blackmail his wife’s lover and the subsequent events that happen as a result of that. But while a movie or TV show like “Fargo” sticks to that theme and shows how things can go wrong or the things people can do, that message doesn’t come across clearly in “Blackmail”. I think the writers and director wanted to put across that message but it got muddled with a few other things.

The music and background score were great – Amit Tridevi is unique and amazing as usual! – and yes while they matched the scenes and highlighted the feelings and emotions, I felt they too played a part in detracting from the main theme of “Blackmail”. Not the composer’s fault – I imagine that is what he was asked to provide (the mood I mean) and so he delivered.

Overall, a good movie, worth a watch – I’d give it a 3.5 or 4 /5, but it could easily have been a 5/5 if the mood or message part was sorted. I wish it had been a 5/5 – I had great hopes for it when I realized that after finding his wife having an affair our hero was going to blackmail the lover. So much potential, so many things that can go wrong (and they did) … amazing!

Weekend movie updates

Stuff I saw this weekend. :)

Safe

Created by author Harlan Cobden (whose books I haven’t read) and starring Michael C Hall of Dexter fame (ooh loved that!). Not a murder mystery, rather a “girl runs away from home, now why did she do that mystery” meets “father searching for his presumed missing daughter and won’t stop at anything until he finds her thriller”. It was fine. Not amazing or anything but not bad either. The finale was a bit rushed and didn’t explain some of the plot points (esp. who ransacked the Chahal family house) and the explain was a bit stretched as to the sequence of events that led to the girl running away – but well, worth a watch. Beware of all the red herrings though! Too many of them, and it’s irritating.

Ready Player One

Based on the book (which I didn’t enjoy). Good movie. Again, nothing too great (coz I am not into gaming I guess) but a fun watch and one of the better movies I have seen recently. Keeps you hooked and all the special effects and stuff is amazing.

Ordeal by Innocence

Based on the Agatha Christie book (which I haven’t read, but will do now) and starring Bil Nighy, Matthew Goode etc. – a nice old fashioned murder mystery, set in an England of old. I am curious how the book is coz this seems to be a very complicated book and it’s commendable that it got adapted for the screen, so I wonder how the original material was. This was the last show I saw this weekend and it was a pleasure.

Tiger Zinda Hai

Feels funny writing this but I saw “Tiger Zinda Hai” and actually enjoyed it! I put it on thinking I’d find it silly but would watch it anyways, and while I did find the whole “super agent” thing silly I enjoyed the movie nevertheless. I guess it’s of the way it was taken. I dunno, the attention to detail I guess, or all the money spent. You (or I, rather) could see the director has taken his time crafting the movie and not spared much expenses. (And later I read in Wikipedia that this is one of most expensive Hindi movies produced).

I loved this Tera Noor song by Jyoti Nooran btw. Amazing fight sequence backed by a superb song.

I loved the background music too. I think that’s one more thing that caught my attention from the start. It wasn’t over-done but perfect for the situations and mood.

Update: Forgot a shout out to the amazing villain of Tiger Zinda Hai – Sajjad Delafrooz.

Reality distortion and hype

(This is something two days ago but didn’t get a chance to complete. Saw it now in my drafts and thought I’d post it as is).

I am irritated with the large number of “Black Panther” praising articles along with the not so large number of articles finding faults with it. Yes “Black Panther” was a great movie. I watched it last week, enjoyed it, and am glad I got to see it. But jeez the amount of media push it on your face articles about how “Black Panther” is this and that is just irritating. I think what’s triggered this current outburst in me is some article where they said Killmonger is the best villain since Heath Ledger as the Joker. Come on, seriously!? Yes Killmonger was good but Heath Ledger as the Joker was something else. You can’t put the two of them in the same sentence.

Killmonger was a good villain. But I don’t see the whole thing of him or the movie being so great coz it’s about Africans and black people etc. I mean if you are pro Africans and black people, then you are. You don’t need a movie to make you suddenly realize it. I enjoyed the movie like I said, and I imagine if you are African it does instill pride in you. But somehow I don’t see how that translates to the insane amount of praise being showered. It’s like everyone just wants to get on the “Black Panther” praise bandwagon and is coming up with something or the other!

And like some sensible article (the link to which I don’t have) pointed out Killmonger was not much about uplifting or equalizing the field for black people all over the world than he was about killing all white people. He just wanted the Vibranium to kill everyone else (but yeah I guess that makes him a good villian coz he managed to brainwash everyone else into thinking he actually wanted to do something else :o)).

Godless poem – To Love What Death Can Touch

Just finished watching “Godless”. I took my time with this show coz even though I liked it I don’t think this is something I could binge watch. Funny though, that’s something I had wondered to myself – how come I like this show but don’t feel like binge watching it; does it mean I don’t really love this show thaat much? – until I came across a comment from the show’s creator and director Scott Frank on how he too feels this is not a show one can binge watch. It’s a slow burn, best enjoyed over a long time. (I think he said so on the NPR Fresh Air podcast).

A lovely poem from the show finale:

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –
to be,
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
to love.
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings painful joy.
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

– Yehuda HaLevi

That poem’s something.

It’s funny how when I read a written poem it doesn’t hit me as much as it does when I see it on a scene or someone recites it. I guess when I read a poem I just read it without really feeling it.

Absentia

I binge watched “Absentia” today and it was amazing. I came across it by chance on Prime Video and since it has Stana Katvic (“Kate” from the “Castle” TV show) I decided to give it a try. And before I know I was hooked onto it. That’s how the shows that really get to me are – they just hook me up and I naturally binge watch it (e.g. “DareDevil”, “The Punisher”, “Luke Cage”, “Fargo”). There are other shows that I might watch to completion but I wouldn’t mind taking breaks in between (e.g. “Godless” which I am watching off and on nowadays).

Two nice quotes from “Wakefield”

Saw “Wakefield” (movie) just now. Loved it. Not at all what I had expected from the synopsis. That sounded like a creepy/ stalker sort of movie, but the actual movie was amazing. Two nice quotes from it.

This is from a point in the movie where the main character (Howard) realizes how he has escaped from a prison of his own making (his past behavior and insecurities):

If anything, I’ve come into my senses fully.

My god, I can see it so clearly.

I’ve constructed the whole thing.

The jealousy …

… the resentment …

…the selfish urgency.

Howard is victim.

Howard is persecutor.

Howard has mastered the world.

That was my prison. That’s what I’ve escaped.

Leaving me where now?

An outcast of cosmos.

And this is just a line he says sometime as he is watching his wife.

I just want you to want me as much as I want you.

Good stuff!

TV Updates

Think it’s been a while since I posted any TV watching updates. :)

Broadchurch – Season 3

An amazing season and a wonderful end to a great show. Everything about this season was great. The plot, the characters, the music, just everything … you will be missed!

Medici: Masters of Florence

Happened to see this on Netflix and checked it out. Nothing great, but worth a watch if you have nothing else to do. The actor who played the main chap (Cosimo) had a dead look about himself. Not sure if that’s intentional. The music is great, including the opening title sequence (which is there on Apple Music). The stories were enlightening in that I wasn’t aware of how much interaction there was between the Church and banks. The show started slowly but became better as it progressed. I remember binge watching the last few episodes coz I was curious what would happen. 

Peaky Blinders

On the last episode of Season 1 currently. A good show so far – enjoying it. Not too fast but not too slow either. Good characters, great set/ lighting/ camera work. Good music. I began watching it coz it’s created by Steven Knight, who directed “Locke” which was an amazing movie. Cillian Murphy & Sam Neill are great. Looking forward to Tom Hardy in the next season. 

Baahubali

Wanted to put this somewhere and didn’t seem to be worth a blog post of its own. I re-watched “Baahubali: The Beginning” a few days ago – mainly to refresh myself and also for the benefit of my daughter who hadn’t seen it. Then saw “Baahubali: The Conclusion” yesterday. Both movies are filled with typical South Indian heroism where the hero can do just about anything and everyone else just watches in awe; and all the women are mesmerized by the hero, with the heroine usually being a strong/ arrogant character until she meets the hero after which he manages to “break” her (kind of like how you’d break a bull) and then she too is all smitten by him. The latter had an overdose of heroism, which frankly I couldn’t bear, but has a lot more special effects and some amazing scenes. Definitely watch it for these. Whatever I feel about the heroism, the director S.S. Rajamouli is a genius for envisioning this sort of stuff.

I guess I hate these heroism kind of movies coz I grew up watching these in Hindi and Tamil movies which were filled with these, and to my child mind that seemed to be how the world is – where if you are a good person you are a hero and have special powers and can do good and move mountains, and everyone looks up to you – but as I grew up and reality hit, I realized that the world isn’t like this. So my mind sort of revolts at this misinformation. I have nothing against super hero movies  coz these usually have an origin story or something that explains why the heroes are “super”; I am only against movies where regular heroes are just able to do super things for no reason except that they are a hero and this is a movie. That gets to me. I know movies are unreal and movies such as Baahubali are fantasy – but when it becomes too fantastical my mind is unable to digest it and I lose interest in the movie.